“There is no friend as loyal as a book.” – Ernest Hemingway
I love literature and the Peace Corps has become the perfect occupation for a reader. First, Peace Corps Thailand makes it a challenge and adventure to find good English literature. Not only is it difficult to find, but there are about 100 other volunteers throughout the country with similar thoughts on their minds. The competition for the good literature is also – and mostly – a blessing. I am among book lovers.
For five years I worked for Hutchinson Technology Inc. – not exactly a hotbed for discussions of existentialism or the novels of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Sure, there were a few readers here and there, but they were few and far between.
From my first night as a Peace Corps trainee, I knew I was amongst the right people. Dev and I were worried we’d have little to talk about after we met in Philadelphia since he wasn’t a baseball fan. We quickly found we shared a common interest: literature. It wasn’t long before we discovered a common interest within that common interest: perhaps the greatest living novelist, Philip Roth. I’m a Roth rookie compared to Dev, who has read most of his work and also wrote his college thesis on Roth and his Pulitzer Prize winning novel, American Pastoral.
Then there’s Josh. Josh is a Thomas Pynchon fan. I knew nothing of Pynchon before I met Josh, but that’s why I love readers – each of them has something new to teach you. Josh gave me Pynchon 101 and now feel prepared to give The Crying of Lot 49 a try.
Josh and I were fortunate enough to find a huge bookstore in Bangkok over the weekend where we spent a good three hours and about 1,200 baht each on a few books. It’s a lot of money for volunteers, but we’re readers and we need our fix.
Liz and I talk Roth, The Postman Always Rings Twice and Bob Dylan (he’s an author, too. See Chronicles: Volume One). Christine and I talk Into the Wild and David Sedaris. Erin and I talk J.K. Rowling and Elizabeth Gilbert. Joe and I talk Hunter Thompson. Roger and Denise and I talk Suzanne Collins. Laura and I talk Anna Karenina. Mark, Paul, Tammy, Kylene, Kale, Tara, Laurie, Julia, Tracy … The list will grow. Most of these friends are in this year’s group. I have yet to meet most of last year’s.
I always wanted to read more in the states, but the distractions of television, internet, socializing and baseball always got in the way. I don’t have those things here. If I’m not traveling over a weekend, I have more time on my hands than Laura Bush.
Note: I’m currently in “reconnect” training until July 10. I will probably not be blogging much in that time.